Liturgical Year
Part 2 Sunday

Chapter y21 History of Sunday

Preliminary Questions


Vignettes by Mark Searle

Ten Finger History

First Day of the Week in Scripture

Naming the Days

To Think About

"You've got to know what day it is.
you have to own your days and name them,
or else, the years go right by
and none of them belongs to you."
-- A Thousand Clowns

Sunday is the day "when the Christian community remembers together again that death does not triumph." Chittister, The Liturgical Year, p 33.

Preliminary Questions 

What is your experience of Sunday?  Is it a happy time?  Recall a Sunday that was a really good Sunday; what did you do on that day? Imagine an ideal Sunday; what would that be like?  Spend a few moments reflecting on what you do on Sunday. Do you think of Sunday as being different from the other days?  If so, how does this effect your behavior and activities?

What your parishioners' experience of Sunday? What do Americans do on Sunday? What is their general attitude toward Sunday?  Do you have any opinions as to how civil society helps or hinders the religious observance of Sunday?

What have you been taught about the meaning of Sunday?  What concerns you about the way you spend Sundays?  Do you confess working on Sunday?  Missing Mass on Sunday? Does it matter with whom you celebrate Eucharist on Sunday?

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Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, The Day of the Lord, August 12, 1998.

Congregation for Divine Worship. Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, Vatican City, June 2, 1988. ICEL translation, Washington DC: Office of Publishing and Promotion Services, United States Catholic Conference, 1988.  ISBN 1-55586-251-9. $1.95.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, "Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass."


A.G. Martimort (Editor). The Church at Prayer, Volume IV, The Liturgy and Time
Jounel, "Sunday and the Week"  pp. 11-29.  

Maxwell Johnson, Editor. Between Memory and Hope
Chapter 3 "Day of the Lord: Day of Mystery" by H. Boone Porter, pp 49-58. 
Chapter 4 "Sunday: the Heart of the Liturgical Year" by Mark Searle, pp 59-76. 
Chapter 5 "The Frequency of the Celebration of the Eucharist Throughout History" by Robert F. Taft, pp 77-98.

Adam, Adolf. The Liturgical Year: Its History, Its Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy.

Bacchiocchi, Samuele. From Sabath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity. Rome: The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, 1977.

Chupungco, OSB, Anscar J.   "Easter Sunday in Latin Patristic Literature," Notitiae 164 (March 1980) pp 93-103.

Denis-Boulet, Noele. The Christian Calendar. P. Hepburne-Scott, trans. The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Volume 113. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1960.

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Three Vignettes by Mark Searle

Sunday Observed: Vignettes from the Tradition. Reprinted from Assembly Volume 7, number 5, June 1981, pages 130, 131, 136.  Reprinted with the permission of the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy, dated 9/11/2002)

I have found the following three "vignettes" by Mark Searle to be an excellent introduction to the study of the history of the Christian Sunday.  They help us get in touch with the concept of "Sunday" in ways that broaden our contemporary understanding.


It is about 4:30 in the morning on an ordinary working day, but as yet the town lies quiet under the blanket of night. Shadowy figures slip through the empty streets and make their way singly or in pairs to the back door of a large villa, the house of a wealthy Christian lady. People arriving at the back door are quickly recognized, admitted and led through to a large family room where there are others already gathered. The people mingle and talk, their voices low and their handshakes firm -- for these are men and women who risk everything in just being here.

There are few chairs in the room, but one at the far end is already occupied by an elderly man, who is clearly a person of some authority; but that appears from his face rather than his clothes which are virtually indistinguishable from everyone else's. Chairs have also been set out nearby for the bishop's advisory committee -- for the elderly man is the bishop of this community and the committee of men who advise him is known as the presbyterate. The man standing beside the bishop, like the man who scrutinized the arrivals at the back door, is known as a deacon, or servant.

The bishop stands and greets the assembled crowd. They respond to his greeting and then immediately fall silent as he leads them in prayer. One of the group brings forward a parchment book from a nearby closet and, after the bishop has been helped to his seat again, begins to read from it a letter originally sent by the Apostle Paul to the community at Corinth. After a while the bishop signals for him to stop and then stands up as the deacon at his side begins to read from another parchment book some of the teachings of Jesus recorded by the evangelist Mark. Again, a sign from the bishop and the reading stops The bishop himself then takes over and begins to address words of exhortation and encouragement to the assembled people, taking his themes from the readings just heard.

The sermon over, the deacon gives the order for the catechumens -- those preparing for baptism -- to leave, and then leads the congregation in a list of petitionary prayers for the Church, the emperor, the city officials, for the success of the harvest and, not least, for the grace to serve God in peace and perseverance. Members of the congregation then greet one another with a kiss of peace -- a gesture of reconciliation and of mutual trust in these difficult times.

A small table is brought forward and a cup and plate are set upon it. The deacon goes round among the people collecting the gifts they have brought: small loaves of bread, a flask or two of wine, some flasks of oil, some cheeses. These are all put in a basket for later distribution among the poor, the sick and the imprisoned members of the community, but some of the wine is used to fill the cup and one of the loaves is set on the table. The bishop greets the familiar faces around him. He exhorts them to lift up their hearts and give thanks to God. They respond in strong, quiet voices and then he goes on to offer a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving. It is always improvised, but the phrases and cadences are familiar as they lead up to the final praise and the "Amen" of the people present. Then the bishop takes the bread into his hands and breaks it into many pieces. One he eats himself, the others he passes to his presbyters and deacons. They all drink in turn from the cup and then the bishop distributes the broken bread to the people as they come up before him. The deacon at his side administers the cup to each in turn.

The distribution completed (and some have taken extra pieces either for those who could not be here today or for themselves during the week), a silence falls over the group. Then there are some announcements: news of new arrests in Rome, but also of some new converts. The hostess announces that all who can come are invited for prayer here after dusk tonight. Then, with a final word of encouragement, the bishop dismisses the congregation and they slip out, one by one and at intervals, into the grey light of dawn. It is the first day of the week. Another day of work lies ahead for each of them and another week of working hard and keeping a low profile, of praying alone or with the family, of trying to be true to the Gospel without provoking the attention of the authorities ... all in the hope of being able to gather again like this next Sunday to celebrate him who suffered as a servant, but whose kingdom will survive all empires.

(Based on Gregory Dix, THE SHAPE OF THE LITURGY (1947), 141-145; and M. H. Shepherd, AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES (1963), 11-21.)

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It is about 9:30 in the morning and families are dribbling out of their dark, smoky cottages and wending their way up the track that leads out of the village towards the church on the hillside. The contrast is striking: the church, while not exactly huge, looms solid, its tower especially dominating the miserable hovels where the people live. The cottages come and go: they catch fire or get destroyed by storms. But the church on the hill has been there longer than anyone can remember and the bones of several generations now huddle together against its walls, as if seeking permanent refuge there. Normally, by this time of the day there would be none but women and children in the village. The men would be out tending their cattle on the common land, hunting in the woods, or scratching the little plots of land where they try to grow corn for their wives to make bread. But today, as every Sunday, there is early rising only for those who have a cow to milk or whose chickens have broken out of their compound. For most of the thirty or so families in this village, Sunday is a day to sleep off the labors of the week and the hangover of the night before.

The bell has tolled half an hour ago to wake the sluggards and to summon those who live out in the woods or on the heath; now they are converging on the churchyard. Children are running around and no one seems in any great hurry to enter the building. The sexton comes out and urges them in. The Mass is about to start. They wander into the church and take up their accustomed places. There are no seats, except for the stone ledge running around the wall where the old people and the pregnant mothers sit. The people stand, some leaning against a pillar, some carrying on a conversation. Men and women are supposed to be on separate sides of the church, but that doesn't prevent some people on one side providing a fair amount of distraction to some people on the other.

The priest comes out of the vestry, dressed in a well-worn, once-white alb and a worn stole. The church does have a chasuble, but it is only worn on high feasts since it is the only one they have. The Mass begins with the priest approaching the altar, which is built against the far end of the church and cut off from where the people stand by a couple of steps. He is accompanied by a young clerk whom he has taught to make the responses, for everything is in Latin, of course. The ritual is familiar to the onlookers as are the chants which a small group of boys and men struggle, not always successfully, to sustain. On some special days, there is a procession which everyone can join in, but apart from standing and kneeling at appropriate times there isn't much for the congregation to do today. The older ones, knowing their days to be numbered give themselves assiduously to their beads, but the rest seem to have a fairly relaxed attitude toward the proceedings. Except, that is, when the bell rings. This is a new custom only recently introduced. In one of his rare sermons -- for he only preaches usually about four times a year -- the priest told them it was so they would know exactly when the bread and wine became God's body and blood, and he would hold it up to show them so they could worship. This was the high and holy moment of Sunday worship. Only at Eastertide would they go to receive holy communion. That takes some preparation, including going to confession and being cross-examined by the priest on what they believed and how they lived. The priest himself receives communion at every Mass and when he does they know the service is almost over. A brief Latin prayer in conclusion and then the blessing and dismissal and it is out into the sunshine again.

The thing about Sunday is not so much that you go to church, though almost everyone does go to Mass and the elderly and the devout also go to Vespers on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, as well as to Matins before Mass. The thing about Sunday is that it is a day of rest. In the town about two hour's walk away there is often a fair, despite the attempts of the local clergy to put a stop to it. There is time to sit around and talk, to drop in on your neighbors, to play games. And it is a day when the lord of the manor knows he can't send for you to chop wood or mend a cart or whatever. From noon on Saturday till dawn on Monday, every Christian is free from the obligations of service. There are times when things have to be done, of course: harvest-time doesn't follow the Church calendar and everyone knows that. But sometimes you want to finish a little job, or decide to take some skins over to the market to make a little profit: and then you're in trouble. That's not only a sin on your soul, it's an offence against the King's law and you can be punished for that. No, Sunday is a day when you don't work, when you have time to enjoy yourself.

(Based in part on J. R. H. Moorman, CHURCH LIFE IN ENGLAND IN THE XIIIth CENTURY, 1955, 68 ff.)

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In this little place, everything comes to a stop at three o'clock on Saturday afternoon and a holy stillness reigns until Monday morning. For the families living here, refugees from tyrannical governments in Europe and survivors of a perilous journey across thousands of miles of dangerous ocean, striving with the rigors of the wilderness and the danger of the Indians, the Sunday-Sabbath is both a welcome respite from toil and an occasion to thank God for his manifold blessings Here they are building a new and godly civilization: "this is the place where the Lord will create a new Heaven, and a new Earth, in new Churches, and a Common-wealth together."

Rejecting heart and soul the superstitions of Rome and the compromises of the Church of England, these zealous Puritans take most seriously the Scriptural Word of God. For them, both Old and New Testaments are equally to be obeyed and nowhere is this more true than in the observance of the Sabbath. The day may have changed from the last to the first day of the week, but the Sabbath ordinances of the Old Testament are closely adhered to. Local legislation reflects this. In its very early days, the Massachusetts Bay Company had provided for "the Saboth (to) bee celebrated in a religious manner" by ordering that "all that inhabite the plantation ... may surcease their labor every Satterday throughout the yeare at 3 of the clock in the afternoone, and that they spend the rest of the day in catichising and preparation for the Saboth."

It is now shortly before nine on Sunday morning and a drumbeat is heard summoning the settlers to worship. Families emerge from their log houses and make their way to the church, all dressed in their long black cloaks. Inside there are benches for all, which is just as well, for they will be there for a couple of hours at least. The interior is very plain -- benches for the people and a pulpit for the preacher, together with a small table used for the Lord's Supper when it is celebrated, which is just four times a year. The minister checks that all are present and then calls them to worship before launching into a lengthy prayer protesting the unworthiness of this congregation to appear before the great and majestic God and asking his pardon, his help and his blessing on this service. Then is read a chapter from a book of the Old Testament and a chapter from the New. Once the readings are over, the preacher again begins a long rambling prayer of his own devising, bewailing his sinfulness and that of his people, begging for the Spirit of sanctification, praying for the spread of the Gospel and the deliverance of those who suffer for true religion and many more things besides, coming at last to pray for himself and his ministry of preaching. Finally it is over and the members of the congregation settle back for what they know is to be a lengthy address. Indeed it is, ranging from the works of Antichrist to the sins of the congregation, setting forth the Word of God gravely and zealously. An hour later, the preacher steps down and takes himself once again to prayer, introducing another litany of godly concerns, before rising up at last to bless the congregation and send them forth. Then it is home for something to eat before the drum sounds again for the afternoon service.

What with the time spent in the church and the time spent in prayer and Bible reading with the family, there is hardly any time left over for any of those works which could break the Sabbath observance. Yet every now and then someone is caught traveling on the Sabbath, or driving a cart, or doing washing, or out hunting: they are fined and may even be flogged. For the observance of Sunday here is above all a matter of breaking altogether with the occupations of the rest of the week. Church-going is only one way of keeping the Sabbath, but the whole day has to be sanctified by abstaining from ordinary activities in order to devote the day to God. For the truly devout, this is not a dull or tedious day. Games and sports may be frowned upon, but the righteous find joy in the things of God and in the oasis of rest from the labors of the week. By enforcing strict Sabbath observance upon all, it is their pious hope that not only will the refreshment of their own spirits be safeguarded but the hearts of sinners might be brought to repentance and in either case the righteous reign of God will be realized on earth in the lives and laws of his saints.

(Based in part on Winton Solberg, Redeem the Time, The Puritan Sabbath in Early America, Cambridge, Mass., 1977)

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Ten Finger History:  Sunday

For an explanation of this historical grid memory see Chapter d21 Overview of the History of Liturgy

1. Apostolic [0-399] See Searle's First Vignette above:  THIRD CENTURY: A SMALL TOWN NEAR ROME

The Christians gather on the evening of the First Day of the Week in imitation of the first disciples who encountered the risen Lord (e.g. Emmaus)  The New Testament authors connect "the Lord's Day" and "the Lord's Supper". 

About the year 100 the Sabbath is no longer observed.  

The Christians gather Sunday evening after work;  then they begin to gather Sunday morning before work.

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week.”  [Alexander Roberts, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I [Fathers to A.D. 325]  (electronic edition of the Edinburgh ed. Oak Harbor : Logos Research Systems, 1997) S. 62]

2. Patristic [400-799] 

Constantine issued an edict in 321 CE forbidding the law courts to sit on Sunday.  Sunday in Rome now honors both the pagan Sun-God and the Christian's Christ. 

Late 6th century, Sunday becomes a day of rest.  Council of Narbonne imposes punishments (100 lashes or 6 pieces of gold) on those who work on Sunday.

Theological problems arise with the "Christian Sabbath".  Bishops speak in opposition to "workless-Sundays" -- What will people do on this day? Idleness is the devil's workshop!   Sabbath symbols and meanings begin to be used to interpret the theological meaning of Sunday. 

Rise of monastic clergy leads to development of private Masses and the multiplication of Masses.

3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  Council of Elvira forbids all labor on Sunday.  Ember Days, Private Masses. Saints Days multiply. 

Movement away from community continues: emphasis now begins to be placed on the eucharistic elements, not the gathering.   Reception of the Eucharist becomes rare.  Eucharist no longer received in the hand but now normally received on the tongue -- when it is received at all.  Eucharist becomes "more sacrifice" and "less meal"  and the Eucharist distributed before and after Mass. 

Easter Duty is established; one must receive at least once a year under pain of mortal sin.

European languages develop;  Mass remains in Latin; Latin becomes language of clergy and educated.  Private devotional prayers begin to be encouraged during Mass. 

Devotions, Mystery Plays and Ritual Processions replace the gathering of the faithful around the Eucharistic table.

4. Medieval [1200-1299]  Cult of the Eucharist outside of Mass develops (Benediction, visits to the tabernacle, etc).  Benediction develops.

The emphasis moves from the presence of Christ in the Assembly to the presence of Christ in the consecrated Bread. 

Scholastics debate the moment when consecration occurs.   

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]    See Searle's Second Vignette  THIRTEENTH CENTURY: A VILLAGE IN ENGLAND

"The clergy with whom lay people had the most contact were the parish priests, and there where numerous complaints about them. In many localities there were too many of them. In a notorious example, in the German city of Breslau, there where two churches staffed by 236 "altar priests," whose sole duty was celebrating Masses for the dead.  In such churches where many Masses were celebrated every day at the same times on the side altars, many people would run from one Mass to the next to be present at the elevation of the Host.  For many the Eucharist had become an object of adoration rather than a sacrament to be celebrated. Sadly too many people came to think of the Mass as the priest's own private prayer rather than a common act of worship."  (Rev. Thomas J. Shelley Ph.D. in Church History:  A Course on the People of God.  Sadlier, Faith and Witness series, pp 74-75.)

Many parishes gather Sunday morning for the Eucharist and again Sunday evening for Vespers and the new rite of Benediction. 

Legalism overshadows worship.  "Missing Mass" begins to be seen as mortal sin.  

The cult of the saints helps suppress the Christological implications of Sunday and the excessive celebration of saints' feasts on Sundays obscures the meaning of Sunday as the day of assembly and the day of encounter with the Risen Lord.  In Medieval Europe, Sundays and feast days were the ONLY de facto days of rest from work.  The multiplication of holiday days is the multiplication of days of rest for the peasants.  Feudal lords are, of course, opposed to holy days for they have to support their serfs who don't do any work on those days (= paid vacations).

To lessen the work burden of the poor, Holy days are increased.  But then we get so many holidays that the people can't make a living! Out of concern for the poor the Church reduces the number of holy days.  Holy Thursday and Good Friday and Holy Saturday become work days, and the liturgies are moved to the morning before have to go to work.  Lent ends at noon on Holy Saturday. 

6. Reformation [1500-1699] 

The Liturgical Calendar divided Sundays into "after Epiphany" and "after Pentecost."  

Paul V (1605-1621) initiates the Eucharistic fast beginning at midnight. 

Fewer Holidays of obligation.  1642, Urban VIII promulgated the apostolic constitution Universa by which every diocese was obliged to observe only the thirty-four feasts listed in the constitution as days of precept.

Printing press enables service books to be standardized.   

7. After Trent [1700-1899]  See Searle's Third Vignette   SEVENTEENTH CENTURY: A NEW ENGLAND SETTLEMENT

Pius IV (1717-1799) "limits" saint's feasts to 158.  Cult of Saints continues growth.   By 1900 there are 230 saints' feasts in the liturgical calendar.  Celebration of Saints obscures meaning of Sunday and the decline of emphasis on Christ continues. 

Clement XIII says Preface of the Blessed Trinity is to be used on all Sunday Masses.  

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]   1903 Pius X:  Tra le sollecitudini.

Odo Casel:  Mysteriengegenwart reintroduces the biblical notion of Anamnesis.  Dom Gueranger.  Lambert Beauduin. 1926 Oratre Fratres (now Worship) magazine founded. Virgil Michel, O.S.B. editor. 

Fasting rules become gradually relaxed in 1953 and 1957.

"Holy Communion" and "Mass" are seen as separate things!  Distribution of Holy Communion begins when priest begins preparing gifts. In some places, Holy Communion is distributed all during Mass and afterwards, but Mass is not "interrupted" for distribution of the Eucharist. 

Confessions heard during Mass so that one can leave the confessional and receive Communion without much time to commit more sins.   At this period, confession is much more "frequent" than receiving Communion.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law says missing Sunday Mass is a mortal sin.

Cult of Saints continues to grow;  there are 262 saints' feasts in the liturgical calendar in 1950. 

1961 CSR publishes a new typical edition of the Roman Missal.

9.  Vatican II [1960-1975] The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #102, 106. 

Restore Sunday. The celebrations of the feasts of the Lord are to take precedence over the feasts of the saints

Stated the eucharistic assembly is the specific characteristic of Sunday. No other activities in church during Mass times (e.g. can't hear confessions during Mass). Only receive Eucharist which was consecrated at that Mass. Eucharistic fast: one hour before receiving communion. Debate eliminating obligatory nature of Sunday worship; feels it obscures the aspect of celebration.

Number of Saints in the Calendar is reduced: only Solemnities or Feasts of the Lord could supplant ordinary Sunday Mass. Any themes on Sunday should be "loosely and flexibly conceived" to avoid obscuring Christological nature of day.  

Fear Sunday no longer seen as first day of week:  International Organization of Standardization decreed that Sunday to be regarded as last day of week, effective July 1, 1976 (Many print calendars and computer calendars are arranged with Sunday as the last day of the week.)

By a tradition handed down from the apostles and having its origin from the very day of Christ's resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, which, with good reason, bears the name of the Lord's Day or Sunday. For on this day Christ's faithful must gather together so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus and may thank God, who "has begotten them again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead " (1 Pt 1:3). Hence the Lord's day is the first holyday of all and should be proposed to the devotion of the faithful and taught to them in such a way that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work. Other celebrations, unless they be truly of greatest importance, shall not have precedence over the Sunday, the foundation and core of the whole liturgical year. (DOL 106)

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]  

1969  The Roman Calendar.    Lectionary. n 66-68. 

1983 Code of Canon Law, cc 1244-1248. CLSA (1985) Commentary, pp 853-854.  

1988  Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest

2001 Liturgiam authenticam  (Fifth Instruction on the Reform of the Liturgy)

2002  Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia

1978-2005 Pope John Paul II canonized more than 90 more saints.  Number of saints' feasts continue to grow.

July 7, 2007  Pope Benedict XVI issued "Summorum Pontificum" permitting the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962 (which uses the Roman Calendar of 1950).

Mass attendance on Sundays in the United States:  A study by Mark Chavez (and colleagues) of Notre Dame University examined the "October Count" and compared it with parish registration and found that 28% of Catholics attend Mass on Sunday. In 1991 Gallup, in a "self-reporting" poll found that 51% of Catholics attend Mass on Sunday.  [From Google accessed Sept 15, 2010]

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"First Day of the Week" in Scripture

Note the following passages from the Revised NAB

Matthew 28:1-10  After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you." Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me."

Mark 16:1-8   When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.' " Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Mark 16:9-11 When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

Luke 23:54-24:14  It was the day of preparation, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. -- But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day." And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Luke 23:54-24:14  Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.

John 20:1-18  On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him." So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home.

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and what he told her.

John 20:19-20  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

John 20:26-29  Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Acts 20:6-12  We sailed from Philippi after the feast of Unleavened Bread, and rejoined them five days later in Troas, where we spent a week.

On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread, Paul spoke to them because he was going to leave on the next day, and he kept on speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were gathered, and a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. Once overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and when he was picked up, he was dead. Paul went down, threw himself upon him, and said as he embraced him, "Don't be alarmed; there is life in him." Then he returned upstairs, broke the bread, and ate; after a long conversation that lasted until daybreak, he departed. And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted.

1 Corinthians 15:58-16:4  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Now in regard to the collection for the holy ones, you also should do as I ordered the churches of Galatia. On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever one can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come. And when I arrive, I shall send those whom you have approved with letters of recommendation to take your gracious gift to Jerusalem. If it seems fitting that I should go also, they will go with me.

Revelation 1:9-11  I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea."

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Naming the Days

The Jewish week: The Jews count the days: first day, second day, third day, sixth day or parascheve (preparation day) and Sabbath. The theology of the Sabbath is based on the account of creation in Genesis, in which we are told that God rested after finishing his work. The Sabbath is above all a day of thanksgiving and prayer. The central idea of "Sabbath rest" is the complete focusing of the mind and heart on God.

The Latin names for the days of the week are: Feria prima, Feria secunda, etc.

The Hellenistic week named the days of the week after the planets. The Hellenistic world accused the Jews of really being followers of Saturn, since they celebrated Saturday, while it accused Christians of being worshipers of the sun, because they celebrated Sunday. Meanwhile within the Christian community the leaders had to be on guard against the superstitions of the faithful who were at times inclined to overestimate the influence of the stars on their behavior. Christians choose "Lord's Day" instead of "Sunday".

Christian names: The Lord's Day. The First Day of the Week. The Eighth Day (that is, the day of the new creation. See 2 Peter 2:5 - Noah is the 8th man saved; the writers of the 4th century considered 8 to mean the resurrection. [ogdoad]. Sunday.

Days of the week and the planets which give them their names









The Solar System

Sun 1Sunday
Venus 25Friday
Earth & Moon32Monday

The Names of the Days in English

SundayNote:  it is not "Lord's Day" as it is in French, Spanish, Italian, Latin.
Mondaymoon day
TuesdayMiddle English Tuesdai, Twisdai.  AS TIW = God of war
WednesdayME Wednes dei.  AS Wodnes daeg.  Woden's day.  Woden was chief of the German dieties and used as AS translation of the Latin dies Mercurii.
ThursdayME Thoresdai.  AS Thurnes daeg.  Thor's day.  Rendering for the Latin Jovis dies.  Jupiter
FridayME fridai.  Day of the goddess Frig, wife of Wodan.  Translates the Latin Veneris dies.  Venus' day -- because of a confusion with Freya, the German goddess of love.
SaturdaySaturn's day

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To Think About

1.  What are the theological differences between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday.

2.  Give a history of the relation between abstinence from work and the celebration of the Christian Sunday.

3.  What do the Christian Scriptures say about what we call "Sunday"?

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it. This site was updated on 10/10/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at